“Metamorphoses” (The Giants’ War, IV) – Ovid

by richibi


    “Jupiter and Lycaon” 


          Jan Cossiers




having already warned his court of Lycaon’s

excesses, Jove instructs his deities to


             Cancel your pious cares; already he
             Has paid his debt to justice, and to me. 


job accomplished

             Yet what his crimes, and what my judgments were,
             Remains for me thus briefly to declare. 


let me tell you briefly, however, how

I came about it, Jove confides


             The clamours of this vile degenerate age,
             The cries of orphans, and th’ oppressor’s rage,
             Had reach’d the stars: 


he tells them


                                               I will descend, said I,
             In hope to prove this loud complaint a lye. 


in order to prove that these clamours 

stood for nothing, this loud complaint 

a lye, or lie, he would, Jove explains,  

descend to Earth in order to investigate  


             Disguis’d in humane shape, I travell’d round
             The world, and more than what I heard, I found. 


from his travels around the world,  

his proofs, Jove claims, were mostly 

personally obtained, rather than 

having been merely hearsay


humane here, note, is an archaic 

spelling of human


             O’er Maenalus I took my steepy way, 


Mount Maenalus, Latin for Mainalo, was 

mountain in Ancient Greece, sacred, 

incidentally, to the god Pan, god of 

rusticity, undomesticated nature 


             By caverns infamous for beasts of prey: 


beasts of prey, note, would not have

been unexpected in Pan‘s territory

             Then cross’d Cyllene, and the piny shade
             More infamous, by curst Lycaon made: 


Mount Cyllene, or Kyllini, is again a 

mountain in Ancient Greece, this one 

sacred to the god Hermes, god of 

messages, communication, travellers, 

speedy deliveries


what Lycaon did to make the piny shade 

of Mount Cyllene more infamous, I’m 

afraid I haven’t been able to ferret out


             Dark night had cover’d Heaven, and Earth, before
             I enter’d his unhospitable door. 


nighttime permeates Jove’s arrival in

this new, and unfamiliar, unhospitable,



            Just at my entrance, I display’d the sign
            That somewhat was approaching of divine. 


as he entered this unfamiliar place, 

Jove says, he display’d the sign of

his divinity, but one only approaching 

of divine, he specifies, a subtle sign, 

something merely suggestive 

             The prostrate people pray; the tyrant grins; 


[t]he prostrate people get it, prostrate,

face down in reverence or submission, 

Lycaon, the tyrant, however, doesn’t


            And, adding prophanation to his sins, 


prophanation, profanation

            I’ll try, said he, and if a God appear,
            To prove his deity shall cost him dear. 


Lycaon challenges the god, any god,

to, should he appear, prove his divinity,

goddesses, surely also, would’ve been 

similarly confronted, otherwise any

impostor would grievously suffer

            ‘Twas late; the graceless wretch my death prepares,
             When I shou’d soundly sleep, opprest with cares: 


while Jove sleeps, giving respite to 

his cares, Lycaon plots his murder

             This dire experiment he chose, to prove
             If I were mortal, or undoubted Jove: 


[t]his, or what is to follow, Jove points out, is

the method Lycaon had already decided he

would try out to determine Jove’s undoubted, 

or indubitable, divinity


             But first he had resolv’d to taste my pow’r; 


the test

             Not long before, but in a luckless hour,
             Some legates, sent from the Molossian state,
             Were on a peaceful errand come to treat: 


legates, ambassadors


the Molossians, a tribe of Ancient 

Greece come to peacefully confer 

with Lycaon


             Of these he murders one, he boils the flesh;
             And lays the mangled morsels in a dish:
             Some part he roasts; then serves it up, so drest,
             And bids me welcome to this humane feast. 


humane here again is an olden form

of human, as in they were feasting 

on human flesh

             Mov’d with disdain, the table I o’er-turn’d;
             And with avenging flames, the palace burn’d. 


Jove thunders, see above

             The tyrant in a fright, for shelter gains
             The neighb’ring fields, and scours along the plains. 


Lycaon has realized that this guest is 

indeed a god

             Howling he fled, and fain he wou’d have spoke;
             But humane voice his brutal tongue forsook. 


fain, or most willingly


again here humane means human, 

Lycaon could no longer speak in a 

human voice

             About his lips the gather’d foam he churns,
             And, breathing slaughters, still with rage he burns, 


though his voice and lips begin to be

affected, Lycaon continues through 

this channel to fume, rage, breath[e] 



             But on the bleating flock his fury turns. 


but his anger, his fury, is now directed 

towards flocks of bleating sheep

             His mantle, now his hide, with rugged hairs
             Cleaves to his back; a famish’d face he bears;
             His arms descend, his shoulders sink away
             To multiply his legs for chase of prey. 


the metamorphosis of Lycaon has 

begun, he wears a hide instead of 

a mantle, an overgarment, his back 

becomes hairy, his arms become 

legs as his shoulders sink away

a transformation appropriate to 

hunt prey 


             He grows a wolf, his hoariness remains, 


hoariness, the condition of being 

old and grey, a remnant of his 

earlier human self

             And the same rage in other members reigns.
             His eyes still sparkle in a narr’wer space:
             His jaws retain the grin, and violence of his face 


Lycaon’s members, or limbs, rage, 

or exhibit fury


his eyes become narrower


Lycaon has turned into a wolf


R ! chard